Annual Letter 1979

100 Ivyhurst Road
Buffalo, NY 14226
December 9, 1979

Dear Friends:

When we wrote you last winter, the scene in front of our window was the Jewish cemetery in Bovenden being covered by snow. A few days later we interrupted our stay in Europe to fly to the U.S. for three weeks to attend the American Historical Association meeting in San Francisco where we both gave papers, an occasion which gave us an opportunity to stop at home in Buffalo and to celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary in Hamilton with all our children, daughter-in-law and granddaughter, then fourteen months old, present. On the West Coast we briefly visited my sister in Los Angeles and Wilma’s stepmother in Phoenix before being snowed in in Buffalo the day we were to return to Germany.

The remainder of our stay in Germany was pleasant and busy. We wrote you in our last letter about the community in Rauschenwasser near Göttingen where we lived as we had on previous stays. Göttingen in many ways has become a second home to us after our many stays there since 1961. It has been a very good place to do our scholarly work. The library is excellent. I myself was associated with the Max-Planck-Institute for History this year, a small research institute with a very active group of mostly younger scholars who form a very informal working commnunity. There were daily opportunities to discuss my work. Wilma, too, had people to talk to, participated in a discussion group, and was invited to present her work to a meeting of the Philosophical Faculty (the faculty of arts and letters). We had opportunities to see old friends and make new ones. There are now hardly any Jews in Göttingen – interestingly enough almost the sole exception is the mayor of Göttingen – but there is a great deal of soul searching about the past. On several occasions we were invited to participate in well attended panels dealing with Jewish questions. On Passover we had two seders at the house; except for a British visitor, all our guests were non-Jewish. A seder is such a rare thing; that the newspaper, which got wind of it, sent a reporter and a photographer and gave it an extensive write up. The discussion of the Nazi past, highlighted last year by the observances of the 40th anniversary of the Reichskristallnacht (the progrom of November 1938), was given new impetus by the presentation of Holocaust on German TV. There are two contrasting attitudes now that the postwar generation has grown up. There are those, particularly on the right, who argue that after forty years Germans should stop examining their past, but there is an even larger number who believe that the past must be a source for continuous examination. Despite certain authoritian attitudes and practices which persist – particular in the restrictions of socalled “radicals” in public service – democratic attitudes are probably as firmly established in West Germany as anywhere in the West.

Our travel in Europe was closely linked to our work. Lecture invitations gave us an opportunity to go to Great Britain, Italy, France and East Germany. Wilma, in search for material for her study of the Bohemian Jews, also spent two crowded weeks in Israel and ten days in Czechoslovakia. She was warmly received by friends and relatives in Czechoslovakia but found the political atmosphere more restrictive than ever and the general work climate even more demoralized than in the past.

Jeremy is still in Minneapolis. He has a teaching assistantship at the University of Minnesota but has not yet begun his dissertation, partly because the professional opportunities in philosophy are so discouraging.

Jeremy has always enjoyed writing. Last year he wrote a regular restaurant column for an entertainment weekly; now he writes more frequent articles for the Minneapolis Star on a variety of topics. The Star also subsidized his trip to Europe where he used the opportunity of accompanying us to France and meeting Wilma in Czechoslovakia to write a series of food columns and a serious, even if witty, piece on Prague.

Dan came to see us in April. He had just completed his law examinations and been admitted to the bar in Ontario. Dan went through a very difficult and painful period. Maggie had told him very suddenly in January,while he was preparing for his examinations, that she wanted to end their marriage. The announcement came to him as a surprise - there had been apparently no serious crises or conflicts before. They had been married for over five years, over four when Sarah was born. We had no inkling of any problems when we saw them in December. In retrospect, of course,it is easy to be aware of differences in personality and interests, but these do not explain what happened. Maggie subsequently moved to Toronto with Sarah as did Dan who has in the meantime found a position in the Ontario ombudsman’s office with which he is very pleased. Maggie has Sarah during the week and he over the weekend. We have seen quite a bit of Sarah since our return. Maggie met us with Sarah at the airport when we returned from Europe. Dan and Sarah have been down here every second or third weekend. Sarah is now twenty-five months old, alert, active, cheerful and very pretty.

Jonathan moved back home when we returned. He had an apartment during the year while our house was rented. Until the end of the summer he worked on a project at the local theater involving research on their contributors. He majored in history and urban studies at Canisius. At present he has a temporary job with the county Department of Social Services working with persons requiring aid with their fuel bills, an opportunity for him to have first hand contacts with urban problems. He is taking a course at night and exploring possibilities of further studies.

We are very much back in our old routine. Wilma in addition to her teaching load – the number of foreign language students continues to decline – advises students on graduate fellowships. The graduate enrollment in history at the university has continued to go down, not unexpectedly in view of the miserable professional prospects for our students. Several of my students, probably the last batch for a while, are completing their dissertations and will be looking for positions. In Germany we kept in close contact with my students who were there doing research as well as with a group of German students from Darmstadt who had studied in Buffalo as part of an exchange program. A few days after our return to Buffalo, our friend Irmgard, at whose house we had stayed in Bovenden, came with her niece for the first time to spend a month here. Our ties with Göttingen continue. I have been invited to spend the summer at the institute and we shall be there from June to August.

With our best wishes for a peaceful year,
Georg, Wilma, Jonathan

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